Long gone are the days when digital tools functioned simply as representational vehicles for great projects. By modeling in three dimensions, architects are increasingly using the generative potentials of software during all stages of design. With this change came various compatibility constraints that forced architects to relinquish some of the control by relying on a single program. The next step promised to alleviate this issue through integration and the possibility of customizing specific tools. This evolution is exemplified by the streamlined workflow provided by ArchiCAD and Rhino, which consolidate all stages in a project’s life, from conceptual form finding to construction documentation and performance data.
Merging program-generated and data-driven variables, architects are free to experiment without having to give up authorial control due to a fixed set of software options. More over, Rhino Grasshopper allows for unrestricted exploration of intricate geometries through surface and massing studies and fast iteration, widening the potential of computational design.
San Francisco–based Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects (OPA) sees the computational language as a source of inspiration and creative freedom. Looking at their portfolio, it becomes obvious that flexibility and whimsy play crucial parts in the way they approach projects, topographies and abstract formal research. The studio also uses ArchiCAD and Rhino throughout all phases of their project, creating an opportunity to develop a wide range of possible narratives when responding to specific requirements.
The architects spent over a year working on schematic design for their current Shapeshifter project, a 4,900-square-foot house in Reno, Nevada. “Ultimately, the specific form of the finished project emerged directly from our office’s ongoing formal research into agent-based design methods,” said Luke Ogrydziak, partner at OPA. “Using the Rhino C++ SDK, we have developed a suite of custom tools to create time-based curves. These curves exhibit characteristics that are impossible to create with more traditional modeling. As such, the form of the house is inextricably tied to this particular extension of Rhino,” he added.
OPA’s recent projects show a move toward creating topographical designs that are embedded in their sites. Shapeshifter, slated for completion this spring, aims to activate the relatively uneventful desert narrative and at the same time establish continuity with the terrain. Emerging from the ground are forms that merge, separate and dissolve as an organism that hardens into a series of planes. The geometry of the house establishes extreme differences without discontinuity, requiring complex surface and structural studies.
The team developed an ArchiCAD model with all the structural steel elements, which was then copied into Tekla by the steel fabricator. Thanks to the integration of C4D with ArchiCAD 19 and the new Rhino to ArchiCAD exporter, they have been able to merge any Rhino geometry into their construction documents. For a daylighting analysis in Radiance, which helped determine optimal sun control for the glazing and informed the choice of thermally efficient cladding material, the team simply exported an ArchiCAD file and built a parametric Rhino model that controls the building’s shell from a handful of points.
The studio is interested in finding ways for translating conceptual designs into structural descriptions without the insistence on a predetermined style. In order to tackle complex sets of design procedures, the studio develops its own custom tools. “Rather than snapping together preexisting elements, we are typically recombining the basic elements of construction at a fundamental level. We like the ArchiCAD and Rhino combination because the tools are generic and flexible, presuming very little about how architecture ‘should’ be.”
Ogrydziak also stressed the importance of having a neutral design environment such as Rhino. Because a large part of the studio’s work focuses on researching different geometric data types, it is important to have the option of tapping into different database structures. Rhino SDK extends the main software using any programming language.
ArchiCAD and Rhino by Graphisoft proved to be extremely responsive when it comes to sharing designs and working with other members of the team. “Using a combination of file types, we shared the ArchiCAD build model with the structural team throughout the entire process of structural development. In house, we placed MEP elements sized by the design-build subcontractors into our build model. This allowed us to properly locate and size chases throughout the project.” Over time, OPA also developed standards for project delivery such as templates for construction drawing sets, typical layer structures and design option templates. The streamlined workflow frees the architects up to experiment and focus on the creative part of the work.